Beauty, Attractiveness, and Personality
Our Perceptions of Beauty
Beauty - What We Find Attractive and Why
Beauty has many definitions. Beauty is extrinsic and intrinsic. We see beauty, but personality is a factor in how beautiful we think someone looks.The more we like a person, the more beautiful they seem to us. Culture and media influences some of our values of what we deem as attractive. Evolution has some effect on our views of what is beautiful. Our opinion is subjective. There are many factors that we associate with beauty, and there can never be just one definition of what we find pleasing to us,
“ The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart. “ ~Helen Keller
We Are Naturally Attracted to Things that are Visually Pleasing
Despite the influences of cultural standards, studies have shown that throughout the world and across cultures, our perception of beauty is amazingly similar to many other countries.
What is it that attracts us to beauty? Several different studies done in the mid 1980’s showed that babies held a longer gaze at beautiful faces, than at faces that were less attractive. Babies less than a week old will naturally stare at something they find pleasing to look at. At 12 months old, babies showed more play, lower stress, and more interacting with people in the study who wore attractive masks than those who wore unattractive masks. Babies played with dolls with attractive faces longer than with dolls unattractive faces. In other studies, it was found that children were better behaved with babysitters who were more attractive than those who were less physically attractive. These studies have led scientists to believe that the ability to spot attractiveness is innate.
Symmetry and Beauty
Researchers now believe that it is human nature that helps us pick out attractive people. It was found that the more symmetrical a person’s face and body is the more beautiful, healthier, and sexier the person is viewed. The answer may lie in evolution.
Symmetry, it is thought shows genetic development that is normal and therefore a good prospect to reproduce with. There is scientific evidence that supports this too. Studies have found that people who are highly asymmetrical may have a higher liklihood of disorders, both phsyical and psychological. The normal developmental effects of puberty also seem to make people seem more attractive to us. For example, men tend to have wider jaws, chins, and noses, bushier eyebrows than women. These traits develop from sex hormones during puberty. Deep within our evolutionary genes, we know that normal puberty equates to better fertility. Everything about evolution leads to our ability to propogate the species.
Studies found this to be true even with hip to waist ratios (which has been shown to be an indicator of how fertile a woman is). Across cultures, it was found that men found women with a low waist to hip ratio of 0.7 - 0.8 to be most attractive sexually, whether they were thin or obese. Although this has been debated about whether this is more of a Western influence. If evolution has anything to do with this, it would indicate that a women would have enough body resources to bear healthy children and have a healthy immune system, better genes, and a greater liklihood that their offspring will survive.
Ancient Times and the Study of Beauty
What is it about physical perfection that we find so attractive? Plato called it “golden proportions” and stated that the width of a beautiful face is ⅔ its length. A nose is no longer that the distance between a person’s eyes. Although his proportions have not held up in biological research, there is something to the idea of measurements and symmetry that make people appear attractive to others. It is believed that it is not so much the proportions that the ancient Greeks believed that makes someone beautiful, but how similar the left and right side of a person’s face appear.
Going back to studies of babies, infants will spend more time staring at pictures of symmetrical people than asymmertric individuals. The idea of attractiveness and symmetry can be seen in other species as well. Female swallows have a preference for males with tails that are longer and more symmetrical. Female zebra finches tend to mate with the males who have symmetrical colored leg bands.
Culture does play some role in what we deem beautiful. Chinese males used to prefer females with smaller feet. Chinese girls would get their feet bound. The practice was banned in 1912, although some still did it in secret. In some African tribes, men find women with large discs in the lips as more attractive.
Using pictures of females at different times of the month, men found women who were ovulating more attractive (even though the men did not know the women were in the ovulation stage of their cycle). Women in short term relationships, at this time find men who have soft features more attractive compared to other times of the month, when they find men with more masculine features more attractive. Perceptions of beauty, change with the cycles of the month.
Perceptions of Beauty
Besides physical beauty, personality strongly influences our perceptions of beauty. Friendliness has been shown to make a person more attractive than a person who is distant and cold. Kindness, intelligence, and an interesting personality were greater factors in mate selection than looks.
Attractive people in studies tend to have what is known as a halo effect. Beautiful individuals are thought, (perhaps mistakenly) to be smarter, better adjusted and more well liked. Research has yielded results that show attrative people have more career success and more experience dating than those who are less attractive.
Some of this has to do with the opinions we have of people just by looking at them. Some of this has to do with a person’s self esteem and self perceptions. A person who is confident and has a good image of themselves gets positive feedback for their own positive attitude and this perpetuates more good things. The opposite may also be true and so self fulfilling prophecies play a role in attractiveness and success. People who feel attractive, even if they are not deemed that way can be just as successful. Much has to do with our own self beliefs.
The pre-opinions we form may also be negative for attractive people. Beautiful women were perceived to be more of a snob, more materialistic, and more vain.
We Seek Perfection from Imperfect Beliefs and Flawed Thinking
Beauty and attractiveness has a lot to do with what we think about a person and our choices in mates.
People go to many extreme measures for the sake of “beauty”. We have plastic surgery, liposuction, gastric bypasses, whiten our teeth, and women have breast implants and men are even having pectoral implants for chest enhancements. We wear spanx, color our hair, wear makeup, go on fad diets, and change our appearances for the sake of beauty.
Beauty is ephemeral. It is temporary. Beauty starts with loving ourselves. We seek perfection from imperfect beliefs and flawed thinking. True attractiveness is loving who we are. There is no such thing as perfection, only appreciation. When we value the whole package of. personality, intelligence, attitude, listening skills, and ability for compassion, then we will know true beauty. When we see something beautiful, it is pleasing to our eyes. But it is the beauty that touches our soul, that is everlasting.